Yankees General Manager, Brian Cashman, is writing the book when it comes to stealth and precision in making deals. His deftness sets the stage for 2019.
Sometime in early to mid-November, while most of us were still lamenting and writing about the Yankees premature departure from the playoffs at the hands of the Red Sox. And with their subsequent World Series drubbing of the Dodgers, Brian Cashman can be visualized ensconced in his office with a couple of his underlings with no interest in looking back at the spoils of a lost season for the Yankees.
The fly on the wall heard him state that the elephants had no place in this room because the Yankees were not going to be a lackey of Scott Boras again by entering the Bryce Harper sweepstakes. As for Manny Machado, the Yankees would wait to see how the market shook out following Machado’s attempt at suicide during the World Series. If either came to the Yankees, all well and good, but there would be no courtship of either player.
Instead, Brian Cashman focused his attention on teams that would be interested in making trades, and in particular, those teams with players who would be available, but still under team control if they came to the Yankees. Priority number one in this category went on the whiteboard as a starting pitcher. Number two, Cashman saw the need to fortify the infield enough to at least make it to the July trade deadline when Didi Gregorius is expected to return from Tommy John surgery.
From experience, Brian Cashman knew that to receive quality, you had to give quality. And he could still chuckle how quickly novice owner, Derek Jeter, jumped at the chance to trade the only player who could put asses in his seats, Giancarlo Stanton, all for the sake of dollars and the return of almost nothing unless you count Starlin Castro as a major trade piece.
This would be different, though. Quality starting pitchers don’t grow on trees, especially in the Bronx. Cashman also had his thoughts centered on the 40-man roster of the Yankees, and he knew somewhere along the line he would forfeit players to the Rule 5 Draft if he didn’t act quickly in deciding which of his remaining prospects would draw the most attention in completing a deal.
With time not necessarily on his side. Brian Cashman then needed to survey the landscape to determine who had the pitcher(s) he was interested in, and along with that and although it was too early in the offseason to tell, which team might be ready to conduct a fire sale by unloading their star players so they could move in a rebuilding direction.
Somewhere along that line of thinking, Brian Cashman found his marriage partner. They would turn out to be the Seattle Mariners, a team in a rut in the AL West with no hope of catching the Houston Astros or Oakland A’s, or even a Wild Card.
Yankees fans know the rest of the story because we woke up on November 28th to discover the news that James Paxton was a Yankees and Justus Sheffield was not. And we wondered, like where did this come from? To be sure, even MLB Trade Rumors missed this one. The man of stealth and precision had struck again when no one was looking.
Brodie Van Wagenen didn’t miss the smoke signal, though, as he swooped in a week later to grab Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz from the Mariners, putting his name on the face of the aggressive general manager’s map.
Brian Cashman is also adept in another way. He seemingly can smell teams who are asleep at the wheel. As an example, the Colorado Rockies window is fast closing on any aspirations to win a World Series, especially with the impending free agency of their out of this world third baseman, Nolan Arenado, reaching free agency after this season.
Seeing the Rockies hemming and hawing about spending the money to retain DJ LeMahieu, a player they desperately needed if any real hope of another playoff run existed, here comes Cashman and voila, Le Mahieu is now a New York Yankee, and the team is stronger for it, both on the field and in the clubhouse.
Both deals make the Yankees stronger than they were as a team (on paper) than in 2018. And because of that, the fly on the wall can also see Brian Cashman sitting back, and with Hal Steinbrenner clapping in the background, saying to no one in particular (did anyone say Aaron Boone?), Well there ya go, I’ve done my best, Now, let’s see you make something of this…